Sam Charles

Communications Manager

School of Engineering
Office: EME3251
Phone: 250.807.8136


Sam started at the Okanagan campus of the University of British in 2013 as a Senior Media Production Specialist with UBC Studios Okanagan.  After four years in that role, he transitioned into the Communications Manager role with the School of Engineering.

At the School of Engineering, he is responsible for developing strategic communication materials that highlight the innovative research and experiential learning on the Okanagan campus.  Sam is energized by telling the endlessly inspiring stories of the School’s researchers, students and staff.

With over twenty years of experience in communications, film, television and radio production, Sam is a seasoned professional communicator focused on generating dynamic and engaging content.

Sam has represented Canada three-times at Summer World University Games as Team Canada’s videographer documenting the Games for international audiences.  On Friday nights during the varsity season, he is the play-by-play voice (and technical advisor) for UBC Okanagan Heat basketball and volleyball webcasts on


Integrated strategic communications including social media; Develop, design, and maintain communications content; Media relations; Issues Management; Develop and prepare faculty awards nominations


Nathan Van Zyderveld is in his final year of the Mechanical Engineering program.

What drew you to engineering?

I have always enjoyed finding solutions to novel problems, which is what an engineer does on a daily basis.  My initial career plan was to be an electrician, but once I reached my third year in the trade, I began to realize that I wanted to learn more than just the application of what I was working on; I wanted to learn how and why it worked. My family encouraged me to pursue engineering, so after upgrading my math and science prerequisites, I applied to UBC Okanagan.

Was there a moment when it became clear that engineering was right for you?

Although there was never a distinct moment that it became clear that engineering was right for me, it fits well with my personality and aptitude. During my years in school, I have discovered what it means to be an engineer, and throughout that process I have come to realize that engineering is right for me.

Who have been your mentors during your engineering journey? And why?

During my years in engineering school, my mentors have included professors, peers, and alumni. The professors who stood out the most to me have been those who clearly love teaching and want students to learn what they know so that we can have technical conversations together, with clarity and comprehension. I have encountered these intentional professors throughout my studies, and I have always excelled in their classes above all others, as they captivate their students’ attention and are so willing to help broaden their knowledge of a subject. My peers and alumni have helped me while we meet similar challenges together.  Collaborating on projects while sharing a mutual experience of stress and pressure is what got me through engineering. If it was not for the peers I met through UBCO Motorsports and in team project assignments, I might not have made it through engineering school. They inspired me to work harder, and we were always together as a mutual consortium of knowledge. If there was something any one of us did not understand, we would work together as a team to solve the problem.  My peers have been an integral part of my learning at UBC Okanagan.

We often hear that studying engineering is grueling, what has been your experience?

Absolutely! Engineering is a grueling program. In my first semester, I failed three of the six required courses and was placed on academic probation. After taking a semester off to determine if engineering was really the right choice for me, I requested permission to return to the program. I went back with a newfound understanding of the difficulties involved in the engineering program. I adjusted my timetable to a reduced load and took an additional five years to complete my degree. I failed a few more courses along the way but continued to learn from my mistakes and persevered to finish my studies.

How do you approach your studies?

I approach my studies on a task list basis. I move all my assignments into a calendar and plan what needs to be done, and at which point in time. This allows me to integrate my studies into my life and keeps me from forgetting important tasks and deadlines. For the most part, if time allows, I try and get the lighter assignments done as early as possible because by the end of each week there are often meetings for projects as well as unexpected tasks needing to be done ASAP. This strategy has helped me to complete my assignments on time and has allowed me to carve out the necessary hours for studying when midterms or finals are approaching.

I was once told that the best strategy was to begin preparing two weeks in advance of an exam. Although I am sure this is a good strategy, I have never been able to do this with my schedule. For the most part, because of the time it takes to keep up with class assignments, I begin my studying three to five days before the exam. This strategy, when I can implement it, has worked out well.

Why do you participate in extra-curriculars?

Engineering school and the UBCO Motorsports team have given me the ability and the knowledge to turn the ideas in my head into a reality. I began participating in the UBCO Motorsports Formula SAE team because I love vehicles. I have always been a “car guy”, and the UBCO Motorsports club was a chance to gain an in-depth understanding about the internal workings of vehicles and their sub-systems. For me, joining UBCO Motorsports was never about improving my resume, but rather about learning the systems and internal workings of how cars are designed and manufactured.

Although classes gave me the basic scientific principles of how things work, I have always been a hands-on learner.  Being on the team has allowed me to get that real life experience. From the Formula SAE motto, Design, Build, Race, that is exactly what I experienced.  We learn the critical components about designing for manufacture and assembly because we are the manufacturer and the assembly technician. Team members learn what makes a good design from this standpoint, and continually improve upon previous designs to create a better overall system.

After my first year on the team, I joined the executive as the powertrain lead.  This is where I started to realize that not only did I enjoy the car design and build, but I also enjoy some of the management aspects of Motorsports.  For my final two years on the Motorsports team, I served as the team captain.  These two years have shaped my life in ways I could not have planned or imagined. This role has also given me teamworking skills and broadened my understanding of how to look at things from other people’s points of view and to learn to collaborate in ways that best serve our team.

Why should a prospective student consider engineering?

Students should consider engineering as their path of study if they want to learn on a deep level how the world works. Throughout my time as an engineering student, I have learned how to model everyday life through technology. It is the perfect path for those who are driven to make the world a better place. The thing I probably learned the most throughout my career as a student is how ingrained in everyday life engineering is. I knew about engineering projects that most of us are familiar with like how roads, vehicles, and other everyday things are made, but was unfamiliar with other, less common projects that require engineering. Biomedical applications are one aspect I was not previously aware of. Since engineering is, by definition, an applied science degree, it should not have surprised me that applied biology is involved, but everything from prosthetic legs to mechanical replacement heart valves involve an engineer somewhere along the line.

What are your future aspirations?

I am hoping that at some point in my engineering career I will have my own engineering firm or be the CTO (chief technical officer) of an existing firm.  I plan to continue learning after graduation so that I can increase my knowledge on the things that interest me.

Are there any other anecdotes you wish to share about yourself or your experiences at SOE?

My time at the school of engineering has had ups and downs, as I assume is true of all students’ journeys. Some of the most influential of these have been my experiences with UBCO Motorsports. In 2018 our team drove to Lincoln Nebraska for a competition. As time went on through the competition we bonded and although the outcome of that competition was not as we had hoped (damaged an engine irreparably and did not have a spare) we learned far more through that week than multiple months of schooling and classwork.

Other notable times with the SOE are those with my professors. Professor Sediako joined the school in my second of six years of engineering schooling. He was assigned the 169 course (Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering) and brought his previous work experience with him. His experience just so happened to be in one of my main interests: vehicle design. In class he would use examples from his previous experiences, and I was always ready to add my take on the topic. We kept in touch throughout my school years, and I had a few more classes with him. He became a bit of a mentor, and I am forever grateful for the input and knowledge that he passed along to me on how I should be focusing my studies and the details of the actual engineering profession.

The School of Engineering announced the recipients of its 2019-20 Faculty and Staff Awards of Excellence this afternoon. The awards, delayed as a result of the pandemic, were presented virtually at an all-School virtual meeting. In announcing the awards, Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq emphasized how inspired he has been over the past year by the efforts and determination of School of Engineering students, staff, faculty, and partners. “Every member of our community has made an important contribution that epitomizes the resourcefulness and focus of our School.”

The awards are presented annually to both faculty and staff in a variety of categories. Past recipients who are nominated for the same award are recognized through honorary mentions.


Kenneth Chau continues to create an entrepreneurship culture and platform in the School at the undergraduate level. Dr. Chau is uncovering opportunities and creating connections between the School of Engineering and Entrepreneurship@UBCO.

Sabine Weyand led the creation of the biomedical option, and currently serves as the option Advisor. Dr. Weyand is also playing an instrumental role in disseminating the equity, diversity, and inclusion culture at the School of Engineering.

Honourable mentions: Ian Foulds and Jannik Eikenaar


Dean Richert has received one of the best teaching evaluations from students with very positive comments. His teaching methods were highly admired by students and peers.

Mehran Shirazi has received exceptional teaching evaluations. His dedication for teaching and student support are highly appreciated by students and colleagues.

Honourable mentions:Lukas Bichler, Yang Cao, and Jonathan Holzman

faculty emerging academic

Sepideh Pakpour is a highly-accomplished researcher with a track record of academic excellence. She leads the Pakpour Lab where her research translates basic microbiome discoveries into applications ranging from bioengineering and biomaterials to medicine.

Mohammad Zarifi is a highly-accomplished researcher with a track record of academic excellence. His research record includes $1.3M in research funding and 12 journal papers. He leads the Okanagan Microelectronics and Gigahertz Applications (OMEGA) Lab.

Honourable mentions: Alexander Uhl

faculty educational leadership excellence

Yang Cao has made significant contributions to educational leadership assisting the development of new pedagogical advances and new programs at the School. He has also played a major role in the COVID-19 Response to support both instructors and students in the transition to online teaching.

Jannik Eikenaar’s leadership in EDI and Indigenizing the engineering curriculum helped the School achieve new levels of engineering education. He also holds Bauder Professorship in Experiential Learning & Leadership.

faculty research excellence

Kevin Golovin demonstrated excellent research output as his research record includes $1.4M in research funding, 2 journals papers and 2 conference papers.

Mohammad Arjmand demonstrated excellent research output as his research record includes $1.1M in research funding and 16 journal papers. Dr. Arjmand  holds a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Advanced Materials and Polymer Engineering.

Honourable mentions: Lukas Bichler and Zheng Liu

staff service excellence

Kayla Soriano provides exceptional service to support our undergraduate programs, faculty, students, and staff.  She has taken a lead role in our undergraduate scheduling and timetabling project.  This requires ongoing consultation, data collection, and attention to detail.

Chris Seib has taken a lead role in managing the clean room, developing lab safety protocols and is active in the undergrad mechanical labs.

Sam Charles has provided leadership in augmenting media exposure for the School of Engineering and its faculty, preparing faculty and staff nominations, developing strategic communications and reports, and enhancing the School’s web presence.

The School of Engineering will announce the recipients of its 2020-21 awards in June.

Manufacturing Engineering students are taking advantage of learning high-level production management skills in MANF 270. MANF270, Production Management course, provides students with hands-on opportunities to put lean manufacturing concepts related to increasing productivity into action.

“Obviously, this term has been a bit different as a result of the pandemic,” explains MANF 270 Lecturer Hassan Iqbal, “but it has enabled students to truly put these concepts into practice in their homes and at their workplaces.”

The focus of the course is learning, understanding, and implementing the Lean Manufacturing “Toyota Production System (TPS).” Dating back to the 1930s, TPS champions the concept of lean manufacturing where waste within a system is reduced to allow for optimal productivity.

Some students were able to take the concepts into real-world situations. Second-year Manufacturing student, Spencer Faubert, used the principles at his family’s vanilla extract company. “Already the people at work have told me what a great difference these small improvements have made to the day-to-day operations.”

“This project was a great chance to actually apply some of the concepts we were learning while studying from home,” says  Aidan Mundle, a second year Manufacturing Engineering student. “We could physically implement it, we could see the results, and we can continue to work on it throughout the year. It was a personalized, beneficial, and useful project that I enjoyed.”

Using his home workshop as a lab, Mundle strategically organized tools and equipment to make everything more accessible and easier to find by implementing the 5-S lean tool.

Vania Amadi, a second-year Manufacturing student, had a similar experience undertaking her course project. “These concepts are both useful and applicable that everyone should learn in order to increase efficiency all the way round.”

According to Iqbal, the students are all demonstrating a keen enthusiasm towards streamlining how they approach a task. “Students have been able to effectively identify the process wastes, and then adapt best practices to minimize/eliminate them. In fact during the pandemic, many of us have been taking a similar assessment of our homes and lives, and taking similar steps without realizing the connection to lean manufacturing.”

Students in MANF 270 not only learned about the building blocks of lean manufacturing but also implemented the Kaizen and 5S system, a visual management process intended to make workplaces more organized and efficient.

Manufacturing Engineering at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering encourages students to investigate the evolving world of manufacturing including additive manufacturing, advanced materials, adaptive robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, digitalization, factory planning, production management, modern manufacturing practices and Industry 4.0. For more information visit:


Two School of Engineering civil engineering researchers are being recognized by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering with CSCE Fellowships. Professors Rehan Sadiq and Kasun Hewage are among a group of civil engineers being celebrated for their election as Fellows into the organization.

The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering has a long-standing tradition of recognizing members for their career achievements and for the excellence of their technical papers. CSCE Fellowship recognition is based on an assessment by peers of a candidate’s career achievements, contributions to civil engineering, and their demonstrated leadership within CSCE and the profession.

Dr. Kasun Hewage is Professor and FortisBC Smart Energy Chair in the School of Engineering at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is also the Associate Director of UBC’s Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC), and co-director the Life Cycle Management Laboratory. Dr. Hewage’s research focuses on integrating life cycle thinking into urban development and infrastructure planning initiatives. Collaborating with fellow academics, industry and governments, he develops tools for sustainability and environmental performance assessment.

Dr. Sadiq is a Professor and Executive Associate Dean of the School of Engineering, is an internationally recognized authority on asset management and reliability of water supply systems and a leading expert in environmental risk analysis and lifecycle assessment of built environments. He is ranked in the top 2% of cited scientists worldwide in the category of environmental science according to a science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators report prepared by Stanford University. His industry and community driven research has generated more than $25M in national and international funding.


Jenny Hostland (BASc ’16, Civil) is a Transportation Planner currently undertaking a Masters in Energy & Transport Management in Austria.

Describe your academic journey.

I was born in Yellowknife, NWT but raised in Kelowna from the age of 4. For University, I decided to stay close to home and attend UBC Okanagan. I completed my degree in 5 years as I participated in the co-op work placement program (which I would highly recommend!).

I initially started out in Science as I was a bit intimidated to go into Engineering at the beginning. However, after two months of studying science, I realized that engineering would be a better path for me.

I had always enjoyed Math and Physics and wanted to gain skills for practical problem solving and application. To be honest, I still didn’t quite understand all that engineering entailed at that point (there really are limitless career options as an engineer), but I took a chance and I never looked back! I felt like I’d finally found my community when I switched over. Some of the courses were difficult, but one of my favourite things about UBCO was the community of students and professors. Everyone was so friendly. You could talk to anyone from your lecture and they were more than happy to discuss homework problems or just chat.

Favourite experiences during your studies?

UBC Okanagan has a lot to offer in terms of experiences, communities, and clubs. There is something for everyone! One of my favourite experiences was joining Engineers Without Borders. I stayed with the club throughout my degree, attending conferences and retreats across Canada, drinking Fair Trade hot chocolate, running relay races dressed in a banana suit, and eventually becoming President of the club in my last year.

If I could go back in time, I would definitely have joined VOCO (The Varsity Outdoor Club Okanagan) from the beginning. They organize a lot of really cool outdoor trips with an amazing group of people, and of course the Okanagan is the perfect playground.

What was the transition like for you from university to the workforce?

I think that the School of Engineering prepared me very well for transitioning into the workforce, especially with the experience that I gained from the co-op work experience program.

The School’s two-year general program followed by a specialization in the last two years provides well-rounded base knowledge relating to different engineering disciplines, which I found that my previous employers really valued. This knowledge helps a lot when working in integrated multi-disciplinary teams.

Through co-op, I worked as a materials testing technician in Calgary, a transportation technician in Kelowna, and a geotechnical technician in Burnaby. This provided me with the opportunity to experience a few different types of career paths, and the experience of living in new cities which helped me to figure out what I wanted (and did not want) to do following graduation.

How did you land your first engineering role after graduation?

In my last year at UBC Okanagan, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in transportation engineering. I reached out to a previous supervisor from one of my co-op work terms at a geotechnical consulting firm, and asked if they had any contacts that they would be willing to forward my resume to. Fortunately for me, they had recently moved to a new company with a transportation department and passed my resume along to the right contacts. A couple of months later, I had a signed contract to start with them following my graduation.

Describe your new adventure – undertaking a Masters in Energy & Transport Management in Austria.

During the first three years of my career as a transportation planner/engineer, I was based in Vancouver and most of my projects focused on public transport planning in Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto Area. I then transferred to my company’s head office in London for two years, where I worked on different types of projects including road safety analysis, travel demand management, equality assessments, train operating cost estimation, and demand forecasting for Euro 2020.

At that point, I decided that I wanted to take some time for professional development and learning through a Master’s program and figured that this was a good time to return to school due to the pandemic. I had been contemplating an MBA when a friend of mine suggested the Energy and Transport Management program. It interested me right away as it provides a combination of management and technical skills and allows me the opportunity to complete a semester abroad in another European country. It was also a great opportunity for me to live in a new country, learn a new language, go on more mountain adventures, and explore Europe a bit more. Additionally, the program runs three days a week, so I have extra time to pursue some of my personal goals… Once travel is allowed again (COVID dependent), I’ll be using this time to travel throughout Europe. Right now, I am using this time to train for my first triathlon and take a graphics design course.

How does/did your engineering education prepare you for what you do today?

Having a foundation in engineering provides global access to opportunities. I have had the opportunity to work in Vancouver, BC and London, UK with my previous employer Steer, and am now continuing my education in Austria. This global access has exposed me to best practice and different ways of planning and allows me to work on projects across the globe without having to transfer credentials; which is honestly pretty incredible. I think engineering is a very powerful degree to obtain, as it also provides a lot of access to careers that are non-engineering related because it includes analytical, problem-solving, and applied skills that can be transferred to different types of career disciplines.


What are your future plans?

I’m honestly not too sure yet what my next steps will be following my Master’s degree, but it will definitely focus on developing positive impact through sustainable and equitable transport options, and building healthy communities. My love for trains, cycling and walking infrastructure only keeps growing so I’m looking forward to bringing my experience and knowledge back to Canada.

A new residential solar energy system atop the VEDA student residences near UBC’s Okanagan campus is being analyzed, and may serve as a real-world lab for UBC researchers.

Most people are familiar with solar panels, but this system would be a little different in that researchers would be tweaking and adjusting it to optimize its performance.

If the design and modeling of the PV system shows favourable results, the system will be implemented and constantly monitored by a team of researchers who will document environmental and performance data. Through computer-based modelling, the researchers aim to maximize both the profitability and energy output of the system.

“This project targets the design and implementation of a residential solar system to determine actual performance and costs for users in Kelowna and similar areas that share its unique environmental conditions,” explains Alexander Uhl, an assistant professor at the School of Engineering and principle investigator of the project.

Uhl and his team will investigate various solar technologies, installation parameters, power conversion systems, and energy storage.

According to Uhl, the combination of cutting-edge simulation software and evaluation tools is strengthened by collaborations with partners Mitacs, VEDA Exclusive Student Living, and Enbala Power Networks. “There is no question that having great collaborators, who share our desire to augment clean and renewable energy solutions, is paramount to enacting innovations in this area.”

Image courtesy of VEDA Exclusive Student Living

With one of the highest average temperatures in Canada at 14.3°C, mild winters, and mean daily insolation of 3.61 kWh/m2, Kelowna is an ideal location for the use of solar energy systems. In fact, the Okanagan receives 20% more solar irradiance than Berlin, which has one of the highest numbers of solar installations per capita in Europe.

“We’re excited to provide a  platform to validate the technical and economic viability of solar systems in the Okanagan, inspire and train students in green technologies, and provide clean and renewable energy for the region,” says Uhl.

The project is coordinated by the Green Construction Research & Training Centre, a joint initiative of UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College, Mitacs Accelerate funding and a partnership with VEDA Exclusive Student Living and Enbala Power Systems.

The School of Engineering’s newest student design club, Innovate, Design, Sustain (IDS), seeks to uncover innovative engineering and scientific solutions to create a more sustainable environment on campus and throughout the Okanagan.

Spearheaded by three undergraduate students, the new club was recently registered under the UBC Okanagan Students’ Union.

“We started this club is because, as engineering students, we are highly interested in putting our engineering and design skills into sustainable applications,” explains Sayra Gorgani, a third-year electrical engineering student. “We have been looking for opportunities that would allow us to come together and work on sustainable design solutions, but we realized no such student clubs/associations existed at UBC Okanagan.”

According to Gorgani, the club has been met by an enthusiastic response from faculty, staff, and students both in and outside the School of Engineering. “Regardless of their faculty, we encourage every student to join if they have an interest in making an actual change in our environment. Being a new club, we recognize the value of every idea, so this gives every student member the opportunity to contribute equally and make significant impact.”

Gorgani along with Ashwin Ramesh, secretary, and Eric Laksmono, treasurer, have been hard at work strategizing. The club hopes to start official meetings in term 2 (January 2021). Some of their proposed projects include installing solar powered benches around the campus to charge smartphones (pending UBC approval), implementing scientific solutions to better manage food waste and e-waste on campus, creating and promoting reusable bags and gift wrapping on campus, and more!

“As students, we are passionate about sustainability and protecting our environment, so a group like IDS will help us gain some important experience, and connect with like-minded colleagues,” says Ashwin.

Laksmono couldn’t agree more. “We started this club to allow students to gain design experience with sustainable projects, as well as to benefit the whole community of UBC Okanagan with our projects.”

IDS will start their meetings with student members in January 2021. If you are interested to learn more, email IDS at or follow ISD on Instagram page @idsubco for updates.

UBC researchers at the School of Engineering are working with the University of Auckland and Wayne State University to explore changes to the way we work, study, and travel as a result of COVID.

In a similar study conducted between March and April, the researchers found that out-of-home travel activities were 50% lower than the pre-pandemic period in the Okanagan. Not surprisingly, a significant increase was observed in individuals working and studying from home as a result of government imposed restrictions.

“Building on this study, we are now exploring how these behavioural changes that occurred in short-term, are evolving over the longer-term, and into a post-COVID world,” says Mahmudur Fatmi, an assistant professor and lead researcher at the Centre for Transportation and Land Use Research (CeTLUR). He and collaborators are particularly interested in better understanding public preferences when it comes to working from home or remote learning, and the barriers or benefits that are emerging related to public transit and online shopping.

“There isn’t a person who hasn’t been impacted by COVID in the way their day-to-day activities have envolved since March,” explains Fatmi, “so better understanding those changes is critical to adapting our policies and infrastructure to address them.”

According to Fatmi, that might mean changes to policies such as teleworking, flexible work hours, virtual classes, and transit recovery strategies, or other mechanisms to address how people’s attitudes and lifestyles are adapting to COVID.

By taking into account global changes as well, uniquely Canadian solutions can emerge that incorporate best practices or trends established elsewhere.

“If it turns out that travel behaviours are different from one country to another, we need to investigate why,” Fatmi notes, “Was it a matter of different policies? And did it work or not?”

Fatmi has been collaborating with different research projects across North America and New Zealand since 2015. Most recently, on a project exploring the residential choice decision processes, and cycling demand analysis across continents.

To take part in the travel survey, visit for more information.



Four School of Engineering researchers among the top 2% of cited scientists worldwide in their fields according to a recent Stanford study. Executive Associate Dean and Civil Engineering Professor Rehan Sadiq was joined on the list by Civil Engineering Professor Solomon Tesfamariam, and Electrical Engineering Professors Julian Cheng and Stephen O’Leary.

The list of top scientists ranked the top 100,000 scientists in the world across all disciplines while highlighting the top 2% in each respective field.  It was based on standardized citation indicators like information on citations, h-index, co-authorship, and a composite indicator. The scientists were classified into 22 scientific fields and 176 sub-fields in the report.

The School of Engineering researchers ranked among the top researchers in the categories of environmental sciences, civil engineering, networking and telecommunications, and applied physics.

Sadiq was among the top researchers in the category of environmental science. He is an internationally recognized authority on the asset management and reliability of water supply systems and a leading expert in environmental risk analysis and lifecycle assessment of built environments. His research has generated more than $25M in national and international funding, and used internationally to safeguard and sustain water supplies and distribution.

In the networking and telecommunications field, Cheng was recognized for his significant contributions to the fundamental theory and applications of wireless communications. He is a world-renowned scholar within the IEEE Communication Society, who has accumulated close to $2M in research funding, and published over 300 journal papers and conference papers in top venues. To date, he has over 6700 citations with an h-index of 40 and i10-index of 134 (Google Scholar).

At the cutting-edge of applied physics, O’Leary investigates the characterization of novel electronic materials, and the device implications of these findings. His research is among the most cited in applied physics related to materials. His work provides a better understanding of the nature of semiconductors, empowering researchers in the field with tools for analyzing these materials. His findings are leading to innovations in the electronics industry related to device design and optimization. O’Leary has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, with an h-index of 29 and an i10-index of 67 (Google Scholar).

Tesfamariam is among the top researchers in civil engineering. His research relates to safe and sustainable built environment subject to multiple hazards, such as earthquake, wind, deterioration and climate change. His research has garnered over $3-million dollars from different levels of government and industry. Since he joined UBC, Tesfamariam has published over 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and 70 conference papers. To date, he has over 4800 citations, with an h-index of 37 and i10-index of 110 (Google Scholar).

Lean more about the rankings at



On a Zoom call in late November, three new faculty members met to discuss their preparations for the upcoming year. The three incoming faculty are among ten incoming faculty that are starting at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering over the next year. Lisa Tobber, Vicki Komisar and Alyse Hawley represent different (engineering) disciplines and areas of research, but they do share a common goal. All three are focused on increasing access and experiences for under-represented students in engineering.

“We wanted to meet ahead of our start dates to get acquainted, and see if there are some areas where we can collaborate and help each other out,” explains Tobber, an assistant professor of civil engineering with a research focus on developing smart structural systems particularly related to tall buildings.

Tobber and Hawley both start in July 2021. Tobber is currently completing her PhDs at UBC, and Hawley is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. Hawley’s research integrates a systems’ ecology approach with big data science to uncover how microbial metabolic interactions impact natural and engineered ecosystems.

Whether it is structural or biomedical applications, all of our research connects through the application of big data,” says Komisar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who starts in January 2021. Komisar’s research evaluates how the use and design of assistive technologies, homes and care settings affects the safety and independence of mobility, and the risk for falls and fall-related injuries.

“I think all three of us understand the important role that faculty mentorship plays when it comes to appealing to under-represented groups,” says Hawley. Her experiences traveling and working India and Africa, along with growing up in Los Angeles and Vancouver, have formed an indelible mark on her career in academia. “Students entering academia, and especially research, need champions and mentors to help create environments that empower these students to succeed.”

What drew many of the new faculty to the Okanagan campus was the opportunity to build inter-disciplinary research initiatives at a new and growing campus that embraces this philosophy.

In January, the School will welcome four new members of faculty including: Michael Benoit (Manufacturing), Alon Eisenstein (Entrepreneurship), Komisar (Mechanical), Babak Mohamadpour Tosarkani (Manufacturing). Ahmad Al-Dabbagh, Principal Chair in Control Systems and assistant professor of Manufacturing Engineering, started in July 2020. Five additional faculty (four in Civil and one assistant professor in Electrical/Mechanical) are scheduled to start in July 2021.

According to Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq, these new hires represent an important shift in the development of the School and its research initiatives. “To continue our success, the School needs to appeal to researchers who can make an immediate impact within our established research clusters.” Sadiq points to sustained enrollment growth and research funding as an indication that the School is on the right trajectory. “As a School, we need to continue to offer courses that appeal to incoming students and address the shifting trends within engineering.”

Along those lines, the incoming faculty have backgrounds in data analytics, entrepreneurship, biomedical engineering, microbial community engineering, and advanced manufacturing so their expertise complements very nicely the existing research clusters while addressing current and future trends.

“One of the on-going strengths of the School is how agile and nimble our students, faculty and staff have proven they are,” explains Sadiq. “Many engineering programs aren’t designed to shift quickly to address pedagogical or research challenges, but because of our unique make-up, those challenges are much easier to overcome.”

Tobber, Komisar and Hawley couldn’t agree more. “We all come from different academic and research backgrounds, but solving the major challenges of the 21st century requires that we bridge not only different engineering disciplines, but also work with other faculties, and the community at large,” says Komisar, “and these are areas and approaches where UBC Okanagan excels.”